Heyward says “Ironhead” tribute is for all cancer patients


Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward has twice placed “IRON” and “HEAD” on his eye black, a tribute to his father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, a former college and NFL running back who died of brain cancer.

Heyward says that his goal isn’t simply to honor his late father, but to show support for all cancer victims.

“A lot of people are struggling with cancer and that’s what my message was,” Heyward said Monday, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s not just about me and my love for my father. There are a lot of people out there struggling. In a month when breast cancer is honored I think every type of cancer should be honored as well.”

As PFT reported on Sunday night, the NFL won’t suspend Heyward or prevent him from playing with the message on the eye strips. Instead, the $11,576 fine for a second offense will continue to be imposed until Heyward decides to stop.

Ultimately, he may stop after next Sunday’s game against the Chiefs — his team’s last game in October.

“I’m not trying to step on anyone’s toes or upset the league office, but I want to continue to do it at least for this month,” Heyward said. “I would love to be able to [do it] this month and make an awareness for all types of cancer. I’m very sincere when I say I’m not trying to be someone who is a rebel against the cause or someone who is against everybody. I care about this league, but I also care about people who are struggling. I understand the struggles they go through. My dad went through that struggle, and I saw it every day.”

Heyward has a great point. Apart from the importance of supporting all cancer patients and their families, awareness becomes critical — especially as to cancers that through early detection can be cured quickly or avoided entirely. While the NFL’s work regarding breast cancer awareness is admirable, tales of life-saving prostate exams and colonoscopies could be just as valuable, especially considering the size of the male NFL audience and their stubbornness when it comes to the concept of inserting things into sensitive anatomical regions.

Short of a commitment by the league to embrace those causes, the next best thing is a controversy that allows for stories like this to be written. So regardless of the outcome of Heyward’s situation with the league, let’s be clear on this: (1) all men over 40 need an annual prostate exam; (2) everyone over 50 needs a periodic colonoscopy (some people under 50 need them, too); and (3) skin cancer screening is just as important and a lot less invasive.

30 responses to “Heyward says “Ironhead” tribute is for all cancer patients

  1. I think it’s all gone too far. Let’s get back to focusing on football. The NFL does not need to be a medium for all our problems, that’s why we watch sports to get away from these things. I’d like to not be reminded about those in my life that have dealt with cancer. Can I please have my 3 hours to forget about it for a bit?

  2. Like this comment if you understand that the NFL, like any organization that requires uniforms from Catholic schools to the Marine Corps, has to enforce the rules or everybody would be doing their own thing, be it for a good cause or not.

    Downvote this comment if you want to see everybody on the team with different color shoes, shout outs to their home town written on their back, etc.

  3. People lose sight of the main motivation of breast cancer awareness month was to attract more female viewers.

  4. The NFL is so hypocritical, all the pink stuff they trot out there and the “Crucial Catch” stuff and hardly any money actually goes to cancer research, and all that salute ti service stuff and it turns out they don’t do anything for veterans. This is just as stupid as the not letting Manning wear the black hightops for Unitas tribute. Fix the refs and replay, and then come up with rules your officials can interpret and apply correctly, figure out what a catch is, explain what a football move is, stay out of London, get some goal line cameras, make all plays reviewable, and THEN worry about some eye black messages that the average viewer doesn’t see. I’m actually glad they are bothering him about it, brought a lot more attention than it would have otherwise.

  5. Enough is enough, follow the uniform rules or get out of the NFL! It’s not for whining children! Grow-up! Your getting paid to do a job, not to be promoting yourself! What you are really doing! So follow the rules!

  6. Based on the posts, many people here can’t understand the point. Obviously the NFL isn’t against the gesture. But then players could claim a right to put anything there, including companies’ logos. Players could be paid for a Nike or Adidas or some other brand’s logo to be worn. It’s about the precedent. Rather than debate each time a player puts something on their face, the NFL will stop it before it begins.
    For all the fans who can’t understand that simple a concept, just donate your money to the cause and stop crying injustice.

  7. NFL can’t make $ on eye black. On the other hand. I’m sure there are better ways for Mr. Haywerd to help fighting cancer rather than let the NFL decide where the $ goes via fines.

  8. meximyke says:
    Oct 19, 2015 9:10 PM
    Enough is enough, follow the uniform rules or get out of the NFL! It’s not for whining children! Grow-up! Your getting paid to do a job, not to be promoting yourself! What you are really doing! So follow the rules!

    How is he promoting himself? I don’t remember the league having problems with Tebow and his 3:16 eyeblacks and that was promoting the best selling book in the world. How many times a game would merit a close up of Heywards face if the league had just ignored it? Enough is enough for sure. What’s next, having teams drop trou during introductions to prove what brand jock they’re wearing?

  9. You can directly place the blame for this on players like Reggie Bush (619) and Tim Tebow (everything spiritual)….

    Rodger and the NFL either allows it all or nothing.

  10. Almost 600,000 Americans will die from cancer this year. About 40,000 of them will die from breast cancer. Yes, it’s nice to see awareness brought to an illness that 1 in 8 women will get but where’s the awareness for the cancers that kill 13x as many people as breast cancer does?

    Oh right. Because it’s not about awareness. It’s about trying to draw more female fans.

  11. If you must fine players $12,000 or whatever for eye black then do it.

    If you must test players for pot then fine them $12,000 and donate to the Boys and Girls Club.

    It is absolutely ridiculous for it to be the current death sentence.

  12. In a month where breast cancer is honored i think we should honor all the cancers..just lol…look my mom is a breast cancer survivor and I can assure you even she would have to laugh at the phrasing..

  13. @ dirtdog, excellent point. Breast cancer is the only type of cancer the NFL outwardly supports. Not that it doesn’t deserve support, but it’s hard not being cynical when it comes to marketing and the NFL.

  14. I’ve lost people close to me to cancer, most recently two weeks ago today. But if I show up to work with a “fight cancer” tie on, and my employer says that it doesn’t fit the dress code, I take it off. It doesn’t mean my employer is pro-cancer. It simply means we have an attire standard.

    Donate the $11,000 per game to cancer research, and the cause would be WAY further ahead. People are aware of cancer. That is not issue.

  15. He should start selling Iron Head eye blacks, with 100% of the proceeds going to the cancer research of his choice.

    The Steelers probably aren’t allowed to pay his fine, but they could match it (or double it) and have that money donated there as well. It would be great to see him contribute more money to his cause than the residue that the NFL contributes to what is supposed to be theirs.

  16. How many of these articles about players violating uniform rules for good causes do we need to see before the fake outrage stops? These guys know the rules and get more publicity for violating them then they would with their eye black or pink patches. I completely support the league on this. It would get out of hand fast with players supporting controversial causes and people on their employers time.

  17. Bravo! Let’s recognize the fact that LAST month was childhood cancer awareness month. That is honored with a gold ribbon, but you wouldn’t know it from the NFL. Meanwhile, breast cancer research gets over half the cancer research donations, thanks to an amazing marketing campaign by Susan G. Komen. Nothing against them. But, when the NFL chooses to focus so much on the pink this month, and punishes players who want to acknowledge other cancers, when they ignored childhood cancer the previous month, it reeks of marketing. Could it be the league sees Breast Cancer Awareness Month as nothing more than a chance to increase women’s support (and to talk about boobs)? Too bad about starting the month with Greg Hardy’s reinstatement …

  18. PFT has the eyes of a lot of fans, as well as players and probably even some management personnel. My suggestion is that PFT help push the idea of allowing players to wear a small round decal on their helmets to support their causes. The league allows it for ex players, ex owners, coaches etc. who have passed away. This would give all players an outlet to show support for their causes, without wearing something gaudy such as shoes head bands wristbands or other alterations to the official uniform. Why shouldn’t players be allowed to show their support for family members or loved ones who have passed away,mor who are battling life threatening illness ? If the league can make a profit off of breast cancer, then so too should players be afforded the ability to honor causes that effect them personally.

  19. Looks like it’s working – good on you, son of Iron Head!! If all you got to do is pay a tiny fraction of your salary to charity to raise the discussion this much, it’s a great campaign. Funny that Craig’s eye black is being discussed more than all the pink shoes and gloves and hand towels combined. Good job dude!

  20. What exactly is cancer “awareness” anyway? And why must I only be aware of breast cancer according to the NFL in Oct, Mlb on Mother’s Day, and numerous businesses with their over the top pink campaigns. I am aware of breast cancer, but does being “aware” find a cure? And why aren’t I brought to bemor “aware” of other cancers such as neuroblastoma, brain cancer etc? The whole pink thing is just a way for The NFL to sell pink jerseys to women and pad the pocketbook of the Susan G Komen CEO’s $600k+ salary.

  21. All this other crap aside Ironhead’s son is playing his arse off. He leaves absolutely nothing on the field and is destroying interior linemen. Like father like son. Sorry for the actual football talk. 🙁

  22. Good for Cam – Iron Head would be proud of his son.
    It’s a worthy cause and a noble gesture.

    So long as it’s not rude, derogatory or for endorsement purposes, I think the players
    should be given a small piece of their person
    to express their individuality.

    Be it Eye Black, wrist bands, socks or shoes.
    There is room for compromise and understanding.

    Of course, it’s always easier to just give a resounding
    NO to everything – that way league reaffirms it’s
    absolute control over everything.
    NFL = No Fun League!

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